Police May Be Overzealous as Denver Auto Thefts Surge

In the United States, control of the property you own is seen as a fundamental right. Colorado adheres to that principle, which is why the state takes theft very seriously.

It’s been reported recently that, in the first quarter of 2021, vehicle theft in Denver increased by 114 percent compared to the same time period in the previous year. This has resulted in police keeping a sharper eye out for auto theft than ever before – since the economic impact of this theft totaled nearly $60 million in just the first three months of the year.

Here’s what you need to know about auto theft laws in Colorado.

What Is Motor Vehicle Theft in Colorado?

When someone exercises control over or knowingly obtains another person’s vehicle without their consent, it’s considered motor vehicle theft. If they use deception or threats to get consent from the owner of the vehicle, that also falls under motor vehicle theft.

Motor vehicle theft applies to many different types of vehicles, too, such as:

  • Cars
  • Trucks
  • Snowmobiles
  • Aircraft
  • Boats
  • Motorcycles

Aggravating Factors in Motor Vehicle Theft

Simply obtaining or taking control over another’s automobile counts as second-degree motor vehicle theft. However, it can be elevated to first-degree motor vehicle theft if there are aggravating factors in the case.

These factors include:

  • Taking possession of a vehicle for longer than 24 hours
  • Altering a vehicle or disguising it
  • Altering a vehicle by removing its identification number
  • Committing a crime with the vehicle
  • Doing $500 or more in property damage
  • Causing the bodily injury of another person
  • Taking the vehicle out of state for more than 12 hours
  • Displaying different license plates on the vehicle

The Penalties for Motor Vehicle Theft in Colorado

The two different levels of motor vehicle theft in the state have contrasting penalties. They are:

Second Degree Aggravated Motor Vehicle Theft

If the vehicle is worth more than $20,000, then it’s a Class 5 felony. It can be punished by as many as three years in prison and fines of as much as $100,000.

If the vehicle is valued at more than $1,000 but less than $20,000, it’s a Class 6 felony. You can receive as many as 18 months in prison and fines of $100,000.

For vehicles valued under $1,000, it’s a misdemeanor. The punishment could be a maximum of 18 months in prison and fines of $5,000.

First Degree Aggravated Motor Vehicle Theft

If a vehicle is valued at over $100,000, this level of motor vehicle theft is a Class 3 felony. This level can also be charged if the defendant has been previously convicted of motor vehicle theft twice. A Class 3 felony is punishable by as much as 12 years in prison and fines as high as $750,000.

For vehicles valued between $20,000 and $100,000, you reach a Class 4 felony, punishable by up to six years in prison and $500,000 in fines.

Vehicle Theft Defense Lawyer

A Class 5 felony is reserved for vehicles valued at less than $20,000. It can be punished by up to three years behind bars and fines of $100,000.

Vehicle theft in Colorado is becoming a problem, and that means increased police vigilance going forward. Always understand what consequences your actions may have, so that you don’t get wrapped up in a serious legal situation of motor vehicle theft.


About the Author:

Denver-based criminal defense and DUI attorney Jacob E. Martinez is a knowledgeable and experienced litigator with a record of success providing innovative solutions to clients facing criminal charges of any severity. Mr. Martinez has been recognized by countless legal organizations for his exemplary defense work, including Avvo, Best DWI Attorneys, Expertise, Lawyers of Distinction, The National Trial Lawyers, and others. He was also named one of the 10 Best in Client Satisfaction in Colorado by the American Institute of Criminal Law Attorneys for 2020, and is Lead Counsel rated.